The Secret of Divine Civilization and the Development of Iran

civilization, they are indeed criticizing themselves and their own culture. What caused the increasing tendency towards materialist and atheist beliefs in the West was precisely the prejudiced, intolerant and reactionary approach of the church which set religion against all kinds of new ideas, freedom and progress. But that approach is identical with the reactionary clerical culture in Iran. ‘Abdu’l-Baha writes: Our purpose is to show how true religion promotes the civilization and honor, the prosperity and prestige, the learning and advancement of a people once abject, enslaved and ignorant, and how, when it falls into the hands of religious leaders who are foolish and fanatical, it is diverted to the wrong ends, until this greatest of splendors turns into blackest night. 23 When, however, …the control of Christian affairs passed into the hands of ignorant priests. Those heavenly breezes, soft-flowing from the regions of Divine grace, died away, and the laws of the great Evangel, the rock-foundation on which the civilization of the world was based, turned barren of results, this out of misuse and because of the conduct of persons who, seemingly fair, were yet inwardly foul…. during the ten centuries constituting the Middle Ages, from the beginning of the sixth century of the Christian era till the close of the fifteenth, Europe was in every respect and to an extreme degree, barbaric and dark. The principal cause of this was that the monks, referred to by European peoples as spiritual and religious leaders, had given up the abiding glory that comes from obedience to the sacred commandments and heavenly teachings of the Gospel… and all this brought down in ruins the whole structure of the religion, culture, welfare and civilization of the peoples of Europe. 24 Secondly, ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s argues that the truth of religion is the culture of love and unity of humankind because it emphasizes the spiritual nature of humanity and therefore, it has been the main source of enhancing unity and solidarity among various groups. Furthermore, by virtue of this unification, religion has advanced science and civilization. In discussing this point, The Secret recounts the story of various prophets and the fact that they united antagonistic groups in one spiritual community and thus succeeded in creating magnificent civilizations. In this connection, he also points out that Western Renaissance was strongly influenced by the Western learning of Islamic sciences and philosophy during the crusades. Consequently, the truth of religion is contradictory to the superstitious and reactionary clerical culture of fanaticism. Today a true cleric, therefore, is one who actively promotes religious tolerance, equal rights of all humans, reconciliation among various religions and separation of church and state. Such a cleric listens to the command of prophet Muhammad who emphasized the necessity of learning knowledge from the even furthest parts of the world, like China, and advances in the direction of modernity and civilization. ‘Abdu’l-Baha states: The purpose of these statements is to make it abundantly clear that the Divine religions, the holy precepts, the heavenly teachings, are the unassailable basis of human happiness, and that the peoples of the world can hope for no real relief or deliverance without this one great remedy. This panacea must, however, be administered by a wise and skilled physician, for in the hands of an incompetent all the cures that the Lord of men has ever created to heal men's ills could produce no health, and would on the contrary only destroy the helpless and burden the hearts of the already afflicted. That Source of Divine wisdom, that Manifestation of Universal

23 ‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization , p. 80. 24 , Ibid, pp. 85-87.

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